Another Day in the Country
The wheel of life
© Another Day in the Country
Even though Ramona was home until I started first grade and I continued to live in Kansas until I was a teenager, I will never really feel like a “local.” I’ve been here in town 20-plus years and feel like an anomaly — part this, part that — perhaps because I didn’t stay.
And then there’s California, where I lived for more than 30 years and still own a home, but I’m not a Californian. The state does not feel like home any longer — perhaps, once again, because I didn’t stay.
And so I search, like most of us do, for a sense of belonging, constantly contrasting here and there. California and Kansas, the place I lived for 30 years and the place where I was born and grew up. California and Kansas, such very different places — not just in geography, but also in attitude.
There are a lot of places (states) I didn’t stay, come to think of it. I didn’t stay single. Got married after two years of college and stayed that way for the next 30-plus years, but then I didn’t stay married, either.
A lifetime is full of change. Divorce was one of those difficult transitions. In fact, come to think of it, all these changes are hard to make: birth, adulthood, marriage, divorce, parenting, career changes, health problems, moving.
The easiest, for me, was probably moving back to Kansas. Major changes had just occurred for me — some by choice, others not! I was 50 years old, divorced ideologically as well as by law. My children launched, I was free from care-taking and without a job! What now?
I believe that if I’d been alone, this all would have been devastating, but my sister was on a similar trajectory and came with me. For the first 10 years, it was a lark. We had so much fun fixing things up and trying out new ideas like having a bed and breakfast in Ramona. Tim always was there to help us — no matter what. And then he died, suddenly, and there was another transition to make: Kansas without Timbo. The fun was reduced by much more than one-third of three!
I didn’t stay in the church that I’d grown up believing in. Once I decided to leave, I was the “outsider” that the congregation always was trying to save. I tried other churches for a while, but they just didn’t work for me. So I became one of those people our culture is full of: “spiritual” rather than religious.
Another big change was that I didn’t stay young! I’ve experienced several generation gaps. I went to the latest “Star Wars” movie last night with a bunch of 40-year-olds and their half- grown children and listened with amusement as they discussed the pros and cons of the film plot they’d just seen.
For me, it was a couple of hours of techno antics and eye-ball-shattering explosions on a background of universal ruins. I’d seen enough, read enough, that I knew the gist of the characters, but did I really care about any of it? No! Was it enjoyable? No! But I went anyhow and enjoyed their company even though I didn’t care two hoots about the movie. I was the one on another planet with an outdated ship.
Thirty years ago, while making a bunch of life transitions, I said to my sister, “I no longer have a niche, somewhere I belong.”
For 30 years I’ve been looking for one and at the same time wondering why I wanted one so badly. Then I came to the conclusion that it is part of the human condition to want a place of belonging.
We are hard-wired to be in a flock, a pack, a family unit. And perhaps forever we struggle to remain connected while still needing the freedom of individuality.
In the good old United States of America, most of us have been blessed to have enough resources to sustain our lives so that we can have the luxury to worry about things like fulfilling ourselves above and beyond the needs of others.
So many choices have flown by me during the past year, although they seem pretty minuscule in comparison to a lifetime of minute decisions that all had cataclysmic consequences attached in the long run.
“Looking back is the luxury of a long life,” I’ve heard.
Here I am in a new decade, still in Ramona, where life pretty much began for me. A new decade, like being handed a new blank book. What will we write about, remember, cherish on another day in the country?